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French Government Proposes Anti-waste and Circular Economy Law Covering Numerous Consumer Goods

On 10 July 2019, the French Government presented an ambitious proposal for an “anti-waste” and circular economy law (the Law Proposal) to France’s Council of Ministers. The Law Proposal is divided into four sections, which are titled “Information to Consumers”, “Fight against Waste”, “Responsibilities of Producers” and “Miscellaneous Provisions”. The main provisions of each of these sections will be reviewed in turn as they are likely to have an impact on Hong Kong exports of certain consumer goods to France.

The first section of the Law Proposal is titled “Information to Consumers”.  The main provisions of this section are the following:

  • In order to better inform consumers, the manufacturers and the importers of products that generate waste have to inform consumers, either by marking or labelling, about the qualities and environmental characteristics of the products, in particular those relating to the inclusion of recycled materials, the use of renewable resources, durability, reuse possibilities, recyclability and the presence of dangerous substances. The Council of State is expected to adopt a decree in order to define the categories of products concerned and to detail the means by which consumers will be informed. The Law Proposal states that any breach of this provision will lead to the imposition of an administrative fine, of a maximum of 3,000 euros against a physical person and 15,000 euros against a legal person (Article 1 of the Law Proposal).
  • Manufacturers or importers of electrical and electronic equipment have to inform, free of charge, downstream sellers of the “reparability index” of their products, as well as the parameters explaining how such index was established. In addition, the sellers of electrical and electronic equipment have to inform consumers of the reparability index either by marking, labelling or by any other appropriate means. The Council of State is expected to adopt a decree in order to define the categories of electrical and electronic equipment that will be subject to the reparability index (Article 2 of the Law Proposal).
  • All products that are placed on the market and that are sold to households have to include a marking which inform consumers that these products are subject to sorting. The Council of State is expected to adopt a decree in order to specify the implementation conditions of this provision (Article 3 of the Law Proposal).
  • All professionals that provide maintenance and repair services for household appliances, small IT and telecommunication equipment, as well as computer screens, have to allow consumers to choose, for certain replacement components, spare parts originating from the circular economy instead of new spare parts. A decree adopted by the Council of State will set out a list of the categories of electrical and electronic equipment and spare parts that will be concerned by this provision, as well as define the spare parts originating from the circular economy. The decree will also set out the conditions according to which professionals will not have to offer these spare parts due to their non-availability or for other legitimate reasons. The Law Proposal provides that any violation of these provisions will lead to the imposition of an administrative fine of maximum 3,000 euros against a physical person and 15,000 euros against a legal person (Article 4 of the Law Proposal).

The second section of the Law Proposal is titled “Fight against Waste”. The main provision of interest here is the proposed obligation for manufacturers, importers and distributors of new, non-food products to reuse or recycle their unsold products. The Council of State will enact by decree the modalities explaining how this obligation will be implemented (Article 5 of the Law Proposal).

The third section of the Law Proposal is titled “Responsibility of Producers”. The provisions of interest are the following:

  • In order to reach the recycling targets set out by law and/or by the European Union, the putting on the market of certain products and materials may be conditioned on the inclusion of a minimum rate of recycled materials. These rates and categories will be defined by an implementation decree (Article 7 of the Law Proposal).
  • In application of the principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR), natural or legal persons that design, manufacture, modify, treat, sell or import products or elements/materials included in the manufacture of such products, could be mandated by decree to contribute to the prevention and the management of waste of these products, as well as adopt ecodesign requirements, support reuse and repair networks and develop the recycling of waste stemming from these products. Producers can fulfil their EPR obligations either by collectively putting in place certified eco-organisms or by putting in place individual systems to collect and treat these products (Article 7 of the Law Proposal).
  • The proposed products that are subject to the principle of EPR include the following: (1) packaging used to place on the market products that are consumed or used by households; (2) packaging used  to place on the market products that are consumed or used by professionals; (3) electronic and electrical equipment, whether they are used by private individuals or professionals; (4) batteries and accumulators; (5) certain medicines; (6) certain medical devices; (7) certain textile products and shoes; (8) certain toys; (9) certain sporting equipment; (10) certain individual motor vehicles and (11) certain tyres. Producers must financially contribute to the relevant eco-organism in order to cover the costs of prevention, collection, transport and treatment of the waste of the afore-mentioned products. The amount of that eco-contribution will be modulated by the eco-organism: a bonus will be awarded to the producer in the event that its products fulfil relevant performance criteria, and a penalty to those that do not. The amount of the bonus and the penalty may not exceed 20% of the resale price of the product before tax. The Council of State is expected to adopt a decree setting out the implementation conditions of the above provisions (Article 8 of the Law Proposal).

The fourth section of the Law Proposal is titled “Miscellaneous Provisions”. Notably, it is stated there that Articles 1 to 4 are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2021.

The Law Proposal is scheduled to be discussed before the French Parliament from 24 to 26 September 2019. Please click on the following hyperlink for the Law Proposal (currently available only in French).

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